The (Other) Grind

Pokeball

Numbers game

Rank up. Level up. What is it about such words that drive people to such extreme levels of dedication? Nerds love XP, fact. But so does everyone else. Slowly climbing up the ladder, growing a character from weak to unstoppable. Gaining new abilities and with it, a sense of progression. It’s been an absolutely pivotal aspect of RPGs since their conception but in recent years, has invaded many other genres. In particular, first person shooters. Call of Duty 4 ushered in a new era of FPS, with its persistent leveling system. A system numerous games cut from the same cloth try to imitate. Interestingly though, it’s not just so called gamers that a leveling system appeals to.

Reading this you probably think of yourself on the outside looking in, whereas in reality, if you were a 90s kid, you almost certainly sunk your life into what is one of the purest examples of a game designed around growing stronger.

Pokemon. The effects this series had on the industry, and on world culture, are almost incomprehensible. It introduced an entire generation (and continues to do so!) to the mechanics of hardcore Japanese roleplaying games. XP. Health potions. And grinding. The near endless grind to max out your party of six and become the most lethal Pokemon master in Kanto. Which brings me back to what is seemingly a universal appeal. The millions of Pokemon fans who weren’t gamers, wouldn’t have enjoyed them if they were bad. They were quite the opposite and allowed fans to become a trainers, like their beloved Ash Ketchum. But beyond that, the rock solid mechanics of the game, the grind kept them coming back. The allure of more XP, of more rare Pokemon, of more powerful moves. It’s a concept that somehow, appeals to nearly everyone despite its perhaps complex and most definitely time consuming nature. Our genetic code must just get high off that glorious influx of XP.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try and reach the rank of Major in Halo.

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